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A Report from

Bird observations in the Cape Verde Islands,

Erling Krabbe

18th - 26th October 2003, Sal, Santiago, São Nicolau, Raso, Branco, Boavista

Erling Krabbe, Gonçalo Elias & Adam Riley
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Bourne's Heron
Raso and Branco Islands at sunset
Mountains of central Santiago

Photographs by Adam Riley and Gonçalo Elias


The Cape Verde Islands are an archipelago consisting of 10 islands and several islets situated in the Atlantic Ocean c. 500 km west of Senegal, West Africa. The total land area is 4033 km2 scattered over 58.000 km2 of ocean. These volcanic islands emerge steeply from depths of about 4000 m. The climate is dry tropical but sea conditions are heavily influenced by the cool Canary current that comes from the north. Consistently strong northeast tradewinds produce rough seas, often making navigation around the islands difficult and hazardous. A former Portuguese colony, the islands gained independence and became the República de Cabo Verde in 1975. (Hazevoet, 2000).

Together with the islands of the Azores, the Canaries and the Madeira-Selvagens, the Cape Verde Islands form the socalled "Macaronesia", situated in the subtropical and tropical eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Biogeographically, the Cape Verde Islands belong to the Western Palaearctic, and not to the Afrotropics.

The bird fauna of the Cape Verdes is not very diverse, but it holds a number of interesting, endemic species and subspecies. In this sense, the islands are absolutely worth a visit. Unfortunately, the populations of a number of the endemic breeding bird are declining rapidly, and some are on the brink of extinction. Bannerman's Buzzard and Cape Verde Peregrine are down to a few tens of pairs (the buzzard maybe even less now), and the Bourne's Heron is probably down to 25-30 individuals (all breeding in one colony in one single tree). The unique Raso Lark, only found in the small, barren islet of Raso, was in 1998 down to 92 individuals. The endemic Cape Verde Red Kite probably became extinct in 2001. Sadly, apparently nothing is being done by the Cape Verde Authorities to prevent this development. According to the leading Cape Verde naturalist expert  Cornelis J. Hazevoet, the pointless discussion whether these unique threatened endemic forms should have species or subspecies status moreover has meant, that the international protection efforts have been less focused on the Cape Verde - since full species status unjustifiable is given bigger attention worldwide.

Consequently, one can expect that several Cape Verde endemics will become extinct in near future.

In October 2003, we were 3 ornithologists visiting the Cape Verde Islands for 8 days. Our group consisted of: Gonçalo Elias, Loures, Portugal, Adam Riley, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and Erling Krabbe, Helsingoer, Denmark.

We had a very successful trip. The weather conditions were ideal: Calm, warm and sunny almost all the time - only with a few scattered, showers by the end of the trip on Boavista. Fortunately, the sea was very calm during our boat trip to Raso and Branco. October seemed to be a fine time of year: The rainy season had just finished, and the vegetation on these dry islands was at its peak. The land birds seemed  to have their breeding time.

We managed to see all the endemic species and subspecies of the Cape Verde Islands, except for the Cape Verde Red Kite (which is sadly now probably extinct). Moreover, we saw all the breeding birds as such of the islands, except Madeiran Storm-petrel, Cape Verde Little Shearwater and Black Kite (close to extinction), plus the two introduced species Village Weaver (São Vicente) and Ring-necked Parakeet (Praia, Santiago).

Moreover, we were lucky to find some migrants that are rare or unusual in the Cape Verde Islands: Leach's Storm-petrel, Squacco Heron, Western Reef Heron, Teal, European Marsh Harrier, Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Skua, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Common Wheatear and White Wagtail.

Altogether, a fine result. We can only recommend the Cape Verde Islands as a travel destination. With its scenic nature, exciting birds and friendly people. Go, before it is too late.


In our trip report, we decided to follow the taxonomy used by Cornelis J. Hazevoet, in his book The birds of the Cape Verde Islands, from 1995 - since Hazevoet, by no doubt, is the main authority on the birds of Cape Verde Islands. Hazevoets taxonomy differs in some respect from Handbook of the birds of the World, since he gives full species status to some of the endemic birds of the islands, that are "only" given endemic subspecies status in HBW. This is the case with

·   Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii is treated as an endemic subspecies of Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedeaedwardsii in HBW.

·   Cape Verde Little Shearwater Puffinus boydi is considered an endemic subspecies of Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis boydi in HBW (or maybe of Audubon's Shearwater P.lherminieri boydi).

·   Bourne's (Cape Verde Purple) Heron Ardea bournei is recognised as an endemic possible race or even distinct species in HBW. Treated under Purple Heron Ardea purpurea.

·   Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis is not recognised as a species, but considered a subspecies of Little Egret Egretta garzetta gularis in HBW.

·   Cape Verde Red Kite Milvus fasciicauda is recognised as a possible distinct, endemic species in HBW. Treated under Red Kite Milvus milvus as the endemic subspecies M. m. fasciicauda. Smaller and darker than Red Kite. Hybridizes with Black Kite.

·   Cape Verde Buzzard Buteo bannermani is treated as an endemic subspecies of Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo bannermani in HBW.

·   Neglected Kestrel Falco neglectus of the northern Cape Verde Islands is treated as an endemic subspecies of Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus neglectus in HBW.

·   Alexander's Kestrel Falco alexandri of the southeastern Cape Verde Islands is treated as an endemic subspecies of Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus alexandri in HBW.

·   Cape Verde Peregrine Falco madens is treated as an endemic subspecies of Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus madens in HBW.

·   Cape Verde Barn Owl Tyto detorta is recognised as a possible separate, endemic species in HBW. Treated under Common Barn Owl Tyto alba detorta and described as a well-marked insular form.

·   Yellowlegged Gull Larus michahellis is named Larus cachinnans in HBW, of which michahellis is the subspecies of NW Europe and NW Africa. The recent AERC recommendations do not consider michahellis as a good split either. (According to HBW the subspecies  L. c. atlantis is breeding in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Isl. Perhaps this is more probable in the Cape Verdes).

·   Lesser Blackbacked Gull Larus graellsii is considered a subspecies of Lesser Blackbacked Gull Larus fuscus in HBW. The graellsii subspecies is a breeding bird of the British Isles, Iceland, and coast of W Europe. The recent AERC recommendations do not consider graellsii as a good split either.


The most important book to bring is:

·   Hazevoet, Cornelis J. 1995. The birds of the Cape Verde Islands. BOU Check-list 13. British Ornithologist's Union, Tring.

C.J Hazevoet et al. has followed up on this book by a number of additional articles:

·   Hazevoet, C.J., Fischer, S. & Deloison, G., 1996: Ornithological news from the Cape Verde Islands in 1995, including records og species new to the archipelago. Bulletin Zoölogisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vol. 15 No. 3 1996.

·   Hazevoet, C.J. 1997: Notes on distribution, conservation, and taxonomy of birds from the Cape Verde Islands, including records of six species new to the archipelago. Bulletin Zoölogisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vol. 15 No. 13 1997.

·   Hazevoet, C.J. 1998: Third annual report on birds from the Cape Verde Islands, including records of seven taxa new to the archipelago. Bulletin Zoölogisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vol. 16 No. 9 1998.

·   Hazevoet, C.J., 1999: Fourth report on birds from the Cape Verde Islands, including notes on conservation and records of 11 taxa new to the archipelago. Bulletin Zoölogisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vol. 17 No. 3 1999.

·   Hazevoet, C.J., 2003: Fifth report on birds from the Cape Verde Islands, including records of 15 taxa new to the archipelago. Arquivos do Museu Bocage. Nova Série, Vol.III, N.o 19, pp.503-528. 2003.

Useful field guides we brought along on the trip was:

·   Johnson, Lars, 1992: Birds of Europe, with North Africa and the Middle East. Christopher Helm Ltd., London 1992.

·   National Geographic Society: Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Second Edition. 1987.

·   Leatherwwod, S. & Reeves, R.R. 1983: The Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins. Sierra Club Books, 1983.

Other studied literature and reports:

·   Bannerman, D.A & Bannerman, W.M., 1968: History of the Birds of The Cape Verde Islands. Birds of the Atlantic Islands, Volume 4. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1968.

·   Cramp, S., Simmons, K.E.L. & Perrins, C.M. 1977-1994: Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. I-VIII. Oxford.

·   Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. 1992- : Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1- 8. ICBP. Lynx Edicions.

·   Hazevoet, C.J. & Wenzel, F.W. 2000: Whales and dolphins of the Cape Verde Islands, with special reference to the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Contributions to Zoology: 69(3) 197-211. SPB Academic Publishing bv. The Hague. 2000.

·   Cape Verde Islands, 3rd to 16th March 2003. Rob Payne. A birdwatching trip report from

·   Cape Verde Home Page: (includes list of endemic plants etc.)

·   Latest info on Cape Verde Red Kite: and (2 articles by Rick Watson in Peregrine Fund Newsletter no.32 from 2001, and a follow up article in no.33 from June 2002).


Saturday October 18th : Sal and Santiago.

Arrival to Sal Airport 13:00 hours from Lisbon, Portugal. Connecting flight to Praia, Santiago 14:00 hours. Drive in hired car from Praia to Tarrafal 15:30 to 19:00 along inland route via Assomada. En route visit to the world's last remaining Bourne's Heron nesting colony at Banana, Ribeira de Montanha. Stay overnight at Baia Verde Hotel in Tarrafal.

Cape Verde from the air, Fogo in the background and Santiago in the foreground 
The last remaining Bourne's Heron nesting colony Banana, Ribeira de Montanha

Sunday October 19th: Santiago

Early morning (6:30) 2 hours birding at coastal flats just south of Tarrafal: Small water ponds at roadside, open grass fields, dry acacia "savannah" and visit to sewage ponds near the coast. Late breakfast at Baia Verde. Midday trip through island to central mountain range near Picos and João Gotô. Visit to heron colony at Banana, Ribeira de Montanha, and towards São Jorge dos Orgãos. Return to Tarrafal along coastal route via Pedra Badejo (visit to coast and outskirts of lagoon) and Calheta de São Miguel. Visit to sewage works at Tarrafal at dusk. After dinner in Tarrafal return to sewage works on night trip for Barn Owl. Stay overnight at Baia Verde Hotel in Tarrafal.

Scenery near Tarrafal, Santiago
Scenery near Pedra Badejo Lagoons, Santiago

Monday October 20th: Santiago and São Nicolau

Morning visit to sewage ponds south of Tarrafal 6:30 - 7:10 hours. Return for breakfast at Baia Verde, and departure for Praia airport. Birding from 8:00 to 13:00 hours. A hot and humid day (25º-30º Celsius). Drive along east coast with stop at Pedra Badejo Lagoons. Also stop at sea cliffs at Shell Terminal east of Praia Harbour.

Departure from Praia Airport 15:00 - arrival in São Nicolau via Sal at 16:30 hours. Collected by C.V.T.S Travel Agency, and transported to Tarrafal harbour, with stop over in Ribeira Brava. Overnight stay at Hotel Alice, Tarrafal, São Nicolau.

Santiago scenery 
Getting ready to fly again......

Tuesday October 21st: São Nicolau, Raso and Branco

A hired fishing boat took us from Tarrafal harbour to Raso and Branco (Capt. Cipriano Gonçalves). Departure from Tarrafal 6:40 hours, arrival Raso 9:20. On Raso, walk to the booby colony and the lark area in fine, sunny weather. Stay in Raso until 14:30 hours, then proceeding to Branco, where we camped for the night in the open, on the beach. We explored the south tip of Branco (Ponta Delgada) in the afternoon, and in the evening, from 18:30 till midnight, where we watched the seabirds come in from the sea to their nest holes in the flat, sandy area near the tip.

Branco as seen from Raso
Raso Lark habitat, Raso

Wednesday October 22nd: Branco and São Nicolau

Beautiful sunrise and early morning on the beach of Branco. At 9:10 hours, we were picked up by the boat, and returned to São Nicolau. Arrival Tarrafal Harbour at 13:00. A very quiet and sunny day, with very calm sea. The rest of the afternoon and evening, we relaxed at Hotel Alice.

Thursday October 23rd: São Nicolau

A full day birding in the dry island of São Nicolau. By hired car, we went at 8:15am from Tarrafal via Ribeira Brava along the north coast, east to Juncalinho and Jalunga. Visit to an impressive rockpool at the shore. Returned to Ribeira Brava for lunch. At 14:30 hours, we returned to Tarrafal, with a stop over near the island's highest peak, Monte Gordo. Dragon Trees and small patches of indigenous forest was seen here. We passed through Tarrafal, and went straight to the south western point of Barril, at the abandoned lighthouse. From 16:00 hours to sunset at 19:00 we watched seabirds, dolphins and whales from this point. Return to Hotel Alice in Tarrafal after dark, to stay overnight.

Scenery on São Nicolau

Friday 24th October: São Nicolau, Sal and Boavista

We got up at 4:00 at Hotel Alice in Tarrafal and headed towards the airport in darkness in our hired car at 5:15. It had been raining during the night - our first rain on the trip. Arrival to São Nicolau Airport at sunrise 6:20. Flight to Sal, arrival at 8:00. In Sal Airport at 8:30, we hired a taxi for 2 hours and went to Pedra de Lume - an impressive place, and the biggest landscape attraction in Sal. It is salinas lakes inside a volcano crater, with access through a tunnel. The salinas are still used for salt production, but the machinery looks quite old. The salt pans is a fine place for waders. Afterwards, we said farewell to Gonçalo at Sal Airport - and he flew home to Lisbon. Adam and I continued in a taxi to Santa Maria at the south tip of Sal, and spent an hour here, checking out of what was left of scattered, small wetlands and former salinas among all the new hotels being erected.

Back to Sal airport, flying to neighbouring island of Boavista at 15:05 hours. Shortly after, we landed in this beautiful desert island: huge sand dunes, endless, pristine sand beaches, wetlands, small palm groves, stony desert, forested river valleys and low mountains. Parts of the island were typical Saharan landscapes. We checked in at Hotel Pousada in the capital of Sal Rei, and soon thereafter went out in a hired 4-wheel Pajero Jeep on a daring expedition. We had no time to waste. Our goal was to get to the south tip of Boavista before darkness, to look for frigatebirds on the small rock island of Ilhéu de Curral Velho. The so-called "road" along the south coast soon turned into a track, and eventually disappeared into different, muddy directions in an uninhabited wilderness. However, thanks to brilliant Adam, his GPS and help from an old shepherd (the only person we met), we made it just in time before sunset to the south tip beach at the small island, but no luck with frigatebirds - only a booby colony. Made it back in darkness to the hotel without trouble, and with good help from the GPS.

Pedra de Lume salt pans, Sal
Beach, Santa Maria, Sal

Saturday 25th October: Boavista

A full day birding in Boavista. We started out on an early morning trip (6:15 - 7:30 hours) towards Ponta do Sol on the north-western tip of the island, but it was not possible to get all the way to the tip. A brief visit to the salinas north of Sal Rei, and to the harbour. Back to the hotel for breakfast. Birding the rest of the day until sunset, with the hope of finding a remaining Cape Verde Red Kite in Boavista, as the main target of the day. First, we drove to the old village of Norte and further on towards east to the coast of Ponta do Porto Ferreira. From here, we could overview the booby rock of Ilhéu do Baluarte, which is the other frigatebird option in Boavista. This time our frigatebird efforts were rewarded. Drove back to Rabil and detour to Estancia de Baixo. A few, light showers. We followed the Via Pittoresca to Sal Rei, and returned to the river of Ribeira Grande. We walked along the river from the road bridge to the outlet in the sea. Back again to Norte, desperately hoping for kites coming in to roost for the night in the forested valley between Joao Galego and Norte - in vain though. Back through rain to Hotel Pousada in Sal Rei after sunset, finishing a fine day.

Scenes from Boavista

Sunday 26th October: Boavista and Sal

Our last day in the Cape Verde Islands. Early morning "kite research trip" (6:10 - 7:30 hours) by hired car to Boavista Airport area, Ribeira Grande, Via Pittoresca and salinas at Sal Rei. No kites. Home and pack, and off to airport. Flight to Sal at 9:00 hours. Adam left for Lisbon at noon. I spent the rest of the day on the beach enjoying the view at Santa Maria, before flying to Lisbon around midnight.

Bird list

1. Cape Verde Petrel (Pterodroma feae) Branco - São Nicolau: 22/10 1 at open sea, passing swiftly by the ship at close range. All characters seen well. São Nicolau: 23/10 1 seen from Point Barril at a distance through telescope. Note: Santo  Antão has the largest breeding population in the archipelago, with smaller numbers on Fogo and São Nicolau and perhaps still some on Santiago. This is an endemic of Cape Verde and the Desertas Isl., off Madeira. Might breed in Azores.

2. Bulwer's Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) São Nicolau: 23/10 Much to our surprise, a fine Bulwer's Petrel passed by the point of Barril at 18:30 hours, shortly before sunset, and quite close to the coast. Note: Breeds on Cima and Raso, total population probably only some hundreds of pairs.

3. Cape Verde Shearwater (Calonectris edwardsii) São Nicolau - Raso - Branco: 21/10 40 in open sea between the islands. Branco: 21/10 80 at nest holes, flying, sitting on the ground or in nest holes at south tip Ponta Delgada, Branco. The night was full of sounds from calling shearwaters, coming in from the sea to their nest holes. The actual number of birds was probably much higher than 80 - probably hundreds. Branco - São Nicolau: 22/10 15-20 at sea. São Nicolau: 23/10 75 seen from the point of Barril. Boavista: 24/10 5 at Ilhéu de Curral Velho. Note: Total population in Cape Verdes c. 10.000 pairs (Hazevoet, C.J. 1997)

Cape Verde Shearwater, Branco

[Cape Verde Little Shearwater (Puffinus boydi) This species was not encountered on our trip, although we saw a strongly suspected one in the torchlight at night on Ponta Delgada, Branco 21/10, as well as hearing voices different from the constantly calling Cape Verde Shearwaters - that may have originated from Little Shearwaters. On Raso, at the landing place, we sadly saw old heaps of feathers and skins from culled Little Shearwaters, showing that the breeding population of this  bird in Raso is under pressure by the local fishermen]

Remains of slaughtered Cape Verde Little Shearwaters and probably other seabirds, Raso

4. White-faced Storm-petrel (Pelagodroma marina eadesi) Branco: 21/10 As one of the    highlights of the trip, 2 birds were seen at 23:00 hours at nesting holes in a flat, sandy area on the south tip of Branco, Ponta Delgada. One bird was sitting inside the nest hole, looking out. The other bird was flying around our heads. According to the literature, late October is the very beginning of the breeding period in the Cape Verde's, with the first birds to appear at the colonies.

[Madeiran Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma castro) This breeding species was not encountered on our trip. Known to breed on Brava, Boavista and Branco in small numbers. Perhaps, there may be two different breeding populations - a cold and a warm season population, like in the Selvagens and Azores, that show a considerable degree of differentiation in both morphological and molecular characters. (cf. Faria 1998, Monteiro & Furness 1998, Sangster 1999). This has also been reported/suspected for Berlengas Islands, off the Portuguese coast.]

5. Leach's Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) Branco - São Nicolau: 22/10 1 at open sea. It was swimming on the calm sea very close to the boat. Then taking off, and moving slowly away. Great views of this bird, with all the characteristics seen very well. Probably a not uncommon winter visitor to Cape Verde seas.

6. Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaeton aethereus) Santiago: 18/10 2 birds at cliff coast near Praia Harbour, seen from air during landing at Praia Airport. 20/10 4-6 birds at nests along the coastal cliffs east of Praia Harbour. At least 2 breeding pairs were registered, maybe also a third pair. The birds landed on their nests. The best place to watch the birds is from the high sea cliffs just behind the big "CIC" factory building, east of the Shell Terminal (near the airport). Be careful when walking along the sea cliffs. Raso: 21/10 20 at breeding colony on sea cliffs at south coast of Raso. Branco - Sao Nicolau: 22/10 2 at sea. Boavista: 25/10 1 Ponta do Sol. Note: Strongly declining. In 1999, the total Cape Verde population was estimated to 140-160 pairs (Hazevoet, C.J.,1999), found in Sal, Santiago, Cima, Brava, Raso and probably Boavista.

7. Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) Raso: 21/10 1 at open sea between Sao Nicolau and Raso, 40-50 birds at breeding colony on sea cliffs at south coast of Raso, and at sea. Several nests had eggs, and some young ones. Branco - São Nicolau: 22/10 1 at sea. São Nicolau: 23/10 1 seen from the point of Barril. Boavista: 24/10 At least 100 birds in a breeding colony on the rock island of Ilhéu de Curral Velho, off the south tip of Boavista. 25/10 app. 40 birds in a breeding colony on the rocky island of Ilhéu do Baluarte off the NE coast. 3 birds on poles at sea off Ribeira Grande. Alarming decline, total population is down to c.1000 pairs (Hazevoet, 1997).

Nesting Brown Booby, Raso 
Redbilled Tropicbird on Raso (Photo: Gonçalo Elias)

8. Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Boavista: 25/10 1 adult female soaring above the coast near Ponta do Rife, not far from the small, rocky island of Ilhéu do Baluarte, off the north-east coast. We believe we were very lucky to get this bird, since the species is supposedly on the verge of extinction in the Cape Verde Islands (possibly 1-2 pairs remaining of this, the only population in the Old World (Eurasia and Africa)

9. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Santiago: 19/10 15 in fields s. of Tarrafal, near sewage works. 20/10 20 do. São Nicolau: 20/10 1 airport. 23/10 1 Tarrafal. 24/10 1 airport. Sal: 24/10 1 Santa Maria. Boavista: 24/10 20 Rib.Grande, 25/10 30 near Norte, 20 Rib.Grande, 26/10 4 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

10.  Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) Santiago: 19/10 1 winter plumage/juv. at roadside pond, just south of Tarrafal. Only 4th record in Cape Verde, (cf. Hazevoet, C.J. 2003: Arquivos do Museu Bocage: "Fifth report on birds from the Cape Verde Islands, including records of 15 taxa new to the archipelago"). 20/10 do. (same bird, same place) + 1 winter plumage/juv at Pedra Badejo Lagoon, the latter becoming the 5th record of the Cape Verde Islands.

SquaccoHeron (from a roadside pool near Tarrafal)
Western Reef Heron (Tarrafal sewage works)

(Photos: Gonçalo Elias)

11.  Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis gularis) Santiago: 19/10 3 sewage works at Tarrafal (all 3 dark phase). 20/10 1 do. Note: Formerly a Cape Verde rarity, but now considered a regular visitor in small numbers (25 records since 1980. Hazevoet, C.J. 2003).

12.  Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Santiago: 18/10 1 Praia Harbour. 19/10 12 sewage works at Tarrafal, 2 east coast. 20/10 10 sewage works, Tarrafal. Raso: 21/10 1. Branco: 21/10 1. São Nicolau: 23/10 4 along the north coast. Boavista: 24/10 5 Ribeira Grande, 25/10 40-50 Ribeira Grande, 26/10 6 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

13.  Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) Santiago: 18/10 2 Praia Harbour. 19/10 3 sewage works, Tarrafal. 20/10 1 sewage ponds at Tarrafal, 1 Praia. São Nicolau: 23/10 1. Boavista: 24/10 4 Ribeira Grande, 25/10 10 Ribeira Grande, 26/10 10 Sal Rei - Rabil area. A not uncommon migrant visitor. Since 2000, also recorded as breeding in Santo  Antão (Hazevoet, C.J. 2003).

14.  Bourne's (Cape Verde Purple) Heron (Ardea bournei) Santiago: 18/10 One of the highlights of the trip. Approximately 25 birds were seen at the breeding colony in a large tree in the valley of Banana, Ribeira de Montanha - the last breeding site in the world of this extremely endangered, endemic species. The total world population may be below 30 birds! We arrived at the colony in the late afternoon on a quiet, sunny day, when the adult birds returned to the breeding colony for night roost. 8 full-feather-grown nestlings were counted, standing begging for food in their nests, but there may have been more. 17 adult birds were counted flying in and landing in the nesting tree. The colony seemed to be in full activity, and the breeding time at its peak. The island was lush and green after the rainy season, and a large number of grasshoppers were noted. So, probably food supply was favourable. 19/10 The colony was visited again the following day, around 14.00 hours. Activity was lower. Around 15 birds were counted.

Adult and juvenile Bourne's Herons, Santiago

15.  European Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) Boavista: 25/10 2 Ribeira Grande (1 imm.+ 1 ad.). A regular winter visitor to the Cape Verdes in small numbers.

16.  Teal (Anas crecca) Sal: 24/10 1 female Salinas, Pedra de Lume. A Cape Verde rarity.

17.  Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) A scarce breeding bird of the Cape Verde. Raso: 21/10 5-6 birds seemed to be local breeding birds. Branco: 21/10 1. São Nicolau: 22/10 1 Tarrafal Harbour. 23/10 3 along south coast, 1 north coast. Boavista: 24/10 3 along south coast at Curral Velho. 25/10 6-8 birds in the northern part of Boavista.

18.  Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) Boavista: 25/10 2-3 adult birds, of which 1-2 seen at the mountain of Topetona (near Norte), and 1 at Estancia de Baixo (near Rabil).

Note: Formerly a widespread breeding bird. Now very rare, due to poisoned meat for feral dogs.

[Cape Verde Red Kite (Milvus fasciicauda) This endemic breeding bird of the Cape Verde Islands was not encountered on our trip. It is now probably globally extinct, and in that case the first Cape Verde speciality to become so. Its last stronghold was Santo Antão, where only two widely separated individuals were seen in 1999. Two birds were reported from neighbouring São Vicente in 2000. In 2001 both islands were surveyed for Red Kites by a team for more than a month. They sadly concluded, that the Cape Verde Red Kite is extinct. However, shortly after, 4 kites were discovered in Boavista and 2 in Maio in June 2001. 5 of these were captured in June 2002, and brought to London for a captivity breeding programme. These captured birds are now being examined by DNA-analysis, to reveal whether they are actually true Cape Verde Red Kites or Black Kites (or hybrids). One or a few individuals are supposedly still left in the wild in Maio (telecom with Rick Watson, October 2003). However, before our trip, we did not know whether the last, uncaptured bird was found in Maio or Boavista, since this is not stated in the article in Peregrine Fund Newsletter. Unfortunately, we picked Boavista instead of Maio.]

[Black Kite (Milvus migrans) Not encountered during our trip. This species is in immediate danger of extinction in the Cape Verdes. Maybe a few birds are left in Maio. See above.]

19.  Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) Raso: 21/10 1 adult male of this migrant surprisingly seen foraging over the barren island of Raso. A Cape Verde rarity.

20.  Cape Verde Buzzard (Buteo bannermani) Santiago: 19/10 3 birds soaring together above the valley of São Jorge dos Orgãos, east of the highest peak of the island, Pico da Antónia. After waiting for a couple of hours at a viewpoint on the main road just south of Picos, our patience was rewarded. The buzzards eventually appeared from the forested valley at around 12:30 hours, and circled high into the air.

Note: The endemic Cape Verde Buzzard is now an extremely endangered species. It is only breeding in Santo Antão and Santiago. Total world population does not exceed some tens of pairs, with main population in Santo Antão (Hazevoet, C.J.,1999). In 2003, maybe even less.

21.  Neglected Kestrel (Falco neglectus) São Nicolau: Common and widespread in São Nicolau. 20/10 6 between airport and Tarrafal. 23/10 12 seen en route, during full day birding.

Neglected Kestrel, São Nicolau

22.  Alexander's Kestrel (Falco alexandri) Santiago: A common and widespread bird. 18/10 10 en route Praia to Tarrafal. Breeding behaviour was observed in several pairs. 19/10 30-35 en route. Especially common in the mountainous, inner regions of the island. 20/10 1 Tarrafal, 20 en route Tarrafal to Praia via Pedra Badejo. Boavista: 24/10 2 along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho. 25/10 15 along roads in northern part of the island, 26/10 6 Sal Rei - Rabil area (one pair seen mating Via Pittoresca). Sal: 26/10 1 near Mudeira.

Alexander's Kestrel, Santiago

23.  Cape Verde Peregrine (Falco madens) Santiago: 18/10 1 at mountain top near São Filipe north of Praia (AR). 19/10 1 flying from Pico da Antónia towards Picos. The total population does probably not exceed some tens of pairs, occuring in small numbers throughout the archipelago.

[Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Not encountered on our trip. A former breeding bird of Santiago and Boavista, now extinct. Not reported from the Cape Verdes since 1969, except one bird  recorded in Sao Vicente in 1999, and one immature in Santiago in Dec. 2001)]

24.  Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix inopinata) Santiago: 19/10 3-4 heard calling in green grass area near sewage works just south of Tarrafal. 20/10 1 heard same place. São Nicolau: 24/10 2 heard calling at airport. Boavista: 25/10 10 heard calling in the northern part of the island, especially in the green valley Ribeira do Norte between João Galego and Norte. 2 (a pair) seen after dark near Norte, sitting in the grass just in front of the car, caught in the headlights, 26/10 4 heard Sal Rei - Rabil area. Note: Apparently a common and widespread bird.

25.  Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) Santiago: 18/10 1 Banana, Ribeira de Montanha. São Nicolau: 23/10 7 in central parts between Ribeira Brava and Tarrafal. The Cape Verde Helmeted Guineafowl looks quite different from the African birds, by having a brownish neck. Boavista: 25/10 1 seen at Ribeira do Norte by Adam Riley. Note: According to C.J. Hazevoet, 1997, the Helmeted Guineafowl apparently has been reintroduced to Boavista in the recent years.

26.  Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) Sal: 24/10 4 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 4 Santa Maria.

Note: Pedra de Lume salt-pans is the only breeding site of Black-winged Stilt on the Cape Verde Archipelago. Due to disturbance, numbers are now very low. In 1998 the number was down on a minimum af 4 birds(Barone & Delgado 1999). Our record seems to confirm this.

27.  Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor exsul) Sal: 24/10 6 along road between Sal Airport and Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 24/10 3 along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 8 birds, including young ones, in flat desert area Campo da Serra between Rabil and Norte. Note: Widespread and locally common breeding bird in Santiago, São Vicente, São Nicolau, Sal, Boavista and Maio. Now also recorded in Santo Antão (Hazevoet, C.J. 1998).

Cream-coloured Courser

28.  Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) Santiago: 20/10 1 Pedra Badejo Lagoon. Sal: 24/10 3 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 5 Santa Maria. Boavista: 24/10 10 salinas along south coast, 25/10 15 Ribeira Grande, 26/10 4 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

29.  Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) Santiago: 19/10 1 on beach at Pedra Badejo. 20/10 4 Pedra Badejo Lagoon and beach. Sal: 24/10 30 + several pulli! Salinas, Pedra de Lume. 10 + pulli Santa Maria. Boavista: 24/10 50 salinas along south coast. 25/10 50-70 at Ribeira Grande, and some even in the desert, 26/10 10 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

30.  Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) Sal: 24/10 2 Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 24/10 2 salinas along south coast.

31.  Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) Santiago: 19/10 3 east coast. 20/10 2 Pedra Badejo Lagoon. Raso: 21/10 6 foraging along rocky coast. Sal: 24/10 14 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 2 Santa Maria. Boavista: 24/10 4 salinas along south coast, 25/10 40 Ribeira Grande, and along beach and even grass fields, 26/10 4 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

32.  Sanderling  (Calidris alba) Branco: 21/10 1 on campsite beach. Sal: 24/10 80 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 20 Santa Maria. Boavista: 25/10 A total of 30, seen in Ribeira Grande, salinas and along beach.

33.  Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) Sal: 24/10 75 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 2 Santa Maria.

34.  Little Stint (Calidris minuta) Boavista: 25/10 4 Ribeira Grande.

35.  Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) Santiago: 19/10 2 sewage ponds south of Tarrafal. Only the second record in Cape Verde Isl. (first record also 2 birds, same place, Oct. 2001. Hazevoet, C.J. 2003). 20/10 do.

The 2nd recorded Pectoral Sandpiper for the Cape Verde Islands near Tarrafal, Santiago

36.  Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) Santiago: 19/10 2 east coast. 20/10 3 east coast. Raso: 21/10 1. Branco: 21/10 1. Sal: 24/10 1 Santa Maria. Boavista: 24/10 12 salinas along south coast, 25/10 1.

37.  Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) Sal: 24/10 2 Salinas, Pedra de Lume.

38.  Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) Santiago: 19/10 1 sewage works south of Tarrafal. 20/10 1 do. Sal: 24/10 1 Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 25/10 10 Ribeira Grande and Ribeira do Rabil, 26/10 2 Ribeira Grande.

39.  Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) Santiago: 19/10 1 sewage works Tarrafal, 4 east coast. 20/10 1 sewage works at Tarrafal, 2 Pedra Badejo Lagoon. Boavista: 25/10 3 Ribeira Grande, 26/10 2 do.

40.  Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) Santiago: 19/10 1 in the afternoon at sewage works ponds south of Tarrafal. Only the second record in Cape Verde Isl. (first record same place, Oct. 2001. Hazevoet, C.J. 2003).

41.  Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) Santiago: 19/10 1 in the morning at sewage works ponds south of Tarrafal, in company with a Greenshank - they flew off together towards south, but only the Greenshank returned. Sal: 24/10 1 Salinas, Pedra de Lume, 1 Santa Maria.

Note:A total of 3 Lesser Yellowlegs in 3 different localities was rather surprising. It is a Cape

Verde rarity, the first record only in 1999, and annually since then by one individual, and now

by 3 in 2003.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Santa Maria, Sal

42.  Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) Branco - São Nicolau: 22/10 2 birds together at open sea. Sitting on the surface, and flying. Seen at close range. Probably immatures, being very dark in plumage. São Nicolau: 23/10 2 Barril - probably the same 2 birds. A Cape Verde rarity.

43.  Yellow-legged/ Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus michahellis/graellsii) Santiago: 19/10 1 unidentified, immature bird at sea south of Tarrafal. Boavista: 26/10 1 unidentified imm. Sal Rei Harbour. Sal: 26/10 5 unidentified imm. at Santa Maria.

44.  Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) Sal: 26/10 2 imm. were seen during most of the afternoon foraging along the beach at Santa Maria. A rare winter visitor.

45.  Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) Sal: 26/10 1 imm. seen during the afternoon foraging along the beach at Santa Maria.

46.  Rock Dove (Columba livia "atlantis") Santiago: According to the literature, original birds of the "atlantis" subspecies should be seen in Santiago. We found it common and widespread, especially in the mountainous inner parts of the islands. The race is typically blackish with white rump. However, domestic looking types were also widespread, and we soon grew rather confused about the actual status of this "subspecies" and the origin of the birds, since the information seemed to be quite unclear - not only in Santiago, but in the Cape Verde as a whole. 18/10 60 en route Praia to Tarrafal via Assomada. 19/10 45 en route. 20/10 common en route Tarrafal to Praia. São Nicolau: 20/10 20 between airport and Tarrafal. 23/10 common en route. Sal: 24/10 2 on factory building, Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 24/10 2 along road  between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 30 ferals.

47.  Cape Verde Barn Owl (Tyto detorta) Santiago: 19/10 1 heard calling just after dark at "experimental farm", app. 500 meters south of sewage works, Tarrafal. We returned at 21:30 hours and were lucky to get great views of the bird landing and sitting on the barn - caught in the headlights of the car! A very dark Barn Owl in plumage.

48.  Cape Verde Swift (Apus alexandri) Santiago: This Cape Verde endemic is a rather scarce bird. 18/10 2 at Banana, Ribeira de Montanha. 19/10 8 (4 pairs) in mountainous central parts. 20/10 2 Baia Verde in Tarrafal, 6 Praia coast. São Nicolau: 23/10 3.

49.  Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala acteon) Santiago: A common and widespread bird. 18/10 12 en route Praia to Tarrafal, via Assomada. 19/10 50-70 in total, counted en route during the day. 20/10 2 Tarrafal, 15-20 en route Tarrafal to Praia via Pedra Badejo.

50.  Black-crowned Finch Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps nigriceps) Santiago: A very local bird in Santiago. We saw it only in two places: An open savannah at the coastal plain just south of Tarrafal, and at the stony desert coast on top of the cliffs east of Praia Harbour. 19/10: 5-6 males in display at coastal plain + 1 pair and a single male at the sewage works, Tarrafal, + a few birds feeding in the graveyard! The song display by the males is performed in wide circles, showing an unusual, slow, flapping and gliding flight, reminding of a large butterfly. 20/10 6 sewage works, Tarrafal (2 males in display), 10-12 in desert at Praia coast east of the harbour. Several in display. Boavista: A character bird of Boavista. Very common and widespread. 24/10 20 along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 60-80 along roads in northern part of the island, 26/10 30 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

51.  Bar-tailed Desert Lark (Ammomanes cincturus cincturus) Santiago: 19/10 6 at coastal plain just south of Tarrafal. 20/10 1 do. São Nicolau: 23/10 3 at south coast west of Tarrafal. Sal: 24/10 6 Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 24/10 6 along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 30 along roads in northern part of the island.


Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Boavista

52.  Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes boavistae) Boavista: 24/10 4 in desert along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 15-20 in desert areas in the northern part of the island. Also seen in song display.

53.  Raso Lark (Alauda razae) One of the rarest and most range-restricted birds of the world. In 1998, only about 92 birds survived in an area of a few square kilometres on the small, barren, desert  island of Raso (Ratcliffe et al. 1999). Raso: 21/10. We counted approximately 20-30 birds during our few hours stay, of which 4-5 birds were colour-ringed. Already at the landing site we were met by several Raso Larks. Obviously, it was the start of the breeding time. Lark song and call was heard everywhere - quite similar in character to European Skylark, although not as varied. The aerial song display is similar to Skylark. On the ground, pairs of Raso Larks were feeding actively, and territorial fighting was observed. After the rains, the deserted island was as green as it can probably get, with patches of different flower and grass species. The larks were observed to pick small larvae out of the sand at the roots of the plants, as well as seeds. They were extremely unafraid of man - if you lay flat on the ground and waited, the feeding larks would come so close, that you could nearly touch them. Amazing. So, photo opportunities were excellent of this star bird! The ornithological highlight of the trip for me.

Raso Lark

54.  White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) São Nicolau: 24/10 1 imm. at airport. A Cape Verde rarity in winter.

55.  European Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) Raso: 21/10 1 near the landing site. A Cape Verde rarity.

56.  Cape Verde Cane Warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis) Santiago: 19/10 2 birds in dense sugar cane vegetation along watercourse, at roadside just below the village of São Jorge dos Orgãos. Apparently a territorial pair. They were actively feeding in the open, and the male was singing. Frankly speaking, we did not spend more time searching for this Cape Verde endemic in Santiago, once we had seen it. But obviously, it is not a common bird. São Jorge dos Orgãos is one of the core areas in the island for the species, which is dependent on dense, lush vegetation, and prefers running water. The total world population is estimated to only 500 pairs, found in Santiago only. However, in 1998, 8 pairs were rediscovered in São Nicolau. Perhaps also Brava.

57.  Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis) Santiago: Common and widespread, particularly in drier areas. 19/10 app. 15 heard singing and/or seen en route during the day. 20/10 1 sewage works Tarrafal, 6 singing en route Tarrafal to Praia. São Nicolau: 20/10 2 between airport and Tarrafal. 23/10 6 seen and heard singing, en route during full day birding. Boavista: 24/10 1 heard singing along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 common in northern parts, 15-20 along roads, 26/10 4 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

58.  Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla gularis) Santiago: Rather common and widespread in vegetated parts. 18/10 2 heard singing and seen Banana, Ribeira de Montanha. 19/10 app. 30 birds heard singing and/or seen en route during the day. 20/10 4 singing en route Tarrafal to Praia. São Nicolau: 23/10 2 heard singing in the morning in central mountains at viewpoint near Cachaço. Boavista: 25/10 4 singing birds along Ribeira Norte. According to Hazevoet, C.J. 1999, a small breeding population of Blackcaps in Boavista was only discovered in 1995. Our record confirms the status of the species in Boavista.

59.  Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) Santiago: 19/10 A total of 40 birds, mostly seen in small flocks around the highest peaks of the island. São Nicolau: 20/10 2 at mountain above Ribeira Brava. 23/10 25 en route during full day of birding. 24/10 2 at airport. Raso: 21/10 4, very tame. Branco: 21/10 2. Sal: 24/10 2 Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 25/10 30-35 in northern parts. A common bird of the desert. 26/10 10 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

60.  Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) Santiago: 18/10 6 Praia Airport and 2 en route Praia to Tarrafal. 19/10 100-150 birds en route. Very common and widespread. 20/10 10 sewage works at Tarrafal, common en route Tarrafal to Praia. São Nicolau: 24/10 10 at nests on airport building. Sal: 24/10 2 Salinas, Pedra de Lume. Boavista: 24/10 Breeding colony in airport buildings, 25/10 30-40 in villages, 26/10 6 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

61.  Iago Sparrow (Passer iagoensis) Sal: 18/10 2 (pair) at Sal Airport, collecting nest material. 24/10 1 airport. Santiago: Widespread, but far from numerous. 18/10 10 en route Praia to Tarrafal. 19/10 30 en route. 20/10 2 Tarrafal, 12 en route Tarrafal to Praia. São Nicolau: Rather common. 20/10 10 between airport and Tarrafal. 23/10 50-60 seen en route driving through the island. 24/10 1 airport. Raso: 21/10 common around landing site and at the booby colony. A total of approximately 30 birds. Boavista: 24/10 10 in desert along road between Sal Rei and Curral Velho, 25/10 40 in the desert, 26/10 2 Sal Rei - Rabil area.

Note: This endemic bird is widespread and common throughout the archipelago, except on Fogo (where absent) and Sal and Santa Luzia (where scarce).

Iago Sparrow, Santiago

62.  Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) Santiago: 18/10 25 Banana, Ribeira de Montanha.


São Nicolau:

·   Possibly Fin Whale. A school of possibly 10-15 Fin Whales foraging actively for 1 hour or more, off Barril point, 23/10 afternoon. Big whales. Blowing, and showing long, pointed baleen heads above surface with diagnostic, white palates, and rather large, dark, shark-shaped back fin.

·   Dolphin sp. app. 10 foraging and associating with the Fin Whales. Jumping out of the water. Dolphins also seen from the roof of Hotel Alice in Tarrafal in the morning.


São Nicolau:

·   Erling twice saw a large Manta Sting Ray jump almost vertically out of the water and flap "wings", at sunset 23/10 off Point Barril, São Nicolau. A holy moment!

·   Flying fish were plentiful in the ocean between São Nicolau and Raso-Branco.



Frogs sp. heard calling from sewage ponds, Tarrafal.



·   Adam was lucky to see the endemic, giant, nocturnal gecko on Ponta Delgada, Branco.

·   Skink sp. 1 small, brown. Common on Raso and Branco.

·   Gecko sp. small, seen by night in Branco by Gonçalo.

·   Turtle sp. breeding on Ponta Delgada, Branco. Fresh tracks from egg laying activity seen on the beach in 3 places. Old, hatched young ones were found dead and dried up in the sand. They looked like Kemp's Ridley (showing jagged edge of shield) but young ones of several species are apparently rather similar., according to litterature. (photo obtained).



·   Several Swallowtail species

·   Painted Lady was abundant

·   Several species of Clouded Yellow

·   Very large blackish-brown butterfly, with large, white, round spots on the wings.

Other insects


·   Plenty of large grasshopperssp. and dragonfliessp.

The team, Adam, Erling and Gonçalo, São Nicolau
Erling, Boavista


Erling Krabbe
Postal address: Gurreholmvej 6, 3490 Kvistgaard, Denmark.
Adam Riley
Rockjumper Birding Tours
PO Box 13972
Cascades, 3209, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
Gonçalo Elias
Postal address: Rua Fernão Mendes Pinto nr. 9, 7-Dto, 2670-393 Loures, Portugal

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